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5 Secrets to Running a Successful Wholesale Distribution Business

The pros chime in with expert advice on what you should do — and what you shouldn’t — in order to succeed in this competitive industry.

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Let’s face it: Everyone wants to be successful, and there’s nothing quite like starting your own business to enrich your life personally and financially.

Sometimes, however, the road from start to finish is a bumpy one. The first two years of your wholesale distributorship’s existence will be the ‘learning’ years, when you experience the ups and downs of being a new business owner in a new industry.

On the positive side, plenty of wholesale distributors came before you and are now overflowing with advice and inspiration that will help you reach your goals. Here are a few thoughts to keep you going through the start-up phase.

Related: How does one go about starting a distribution business?

Managing the credit game

Because every wholesaler plays the middleman position between manufacturer and distributor, the real challenge lies in leveraging that position to your best advantage.

While it may appear that you’re powerless being stuck between the two, there’s also a ‘glass is half full’ way to look at the relationship. As a wholesale distributor, it’s up to you to make the other two businesses work in sync: You’re helping the manufacturer get its products to market, and you’re helping the customer obtain the products he or she needs to run a business.

While playing that important role, one of the major mistakes a wholesale distributor should avoid at all costs is the over-extension of credit to customers. This tends to occur when one or more of your customers demands extended payment terms on their invoices, yet your manufacturers are demanding their own payment terms on the other end.

You can avoid this by being diligent about checking credit references, meticulous when explaining your payment terms to new customers, and careful about not letting your receivables become too old, or “aged.”

The other part of the credit issue is the customer who buys too much and leaves you “overexposed” (meaning one particular customer owes too large of a percentage of your receivables). You can avoid this by setting an appropriate credit limit upfront, then reviewing the customer’s account on a twice-yearly basis (or whatever time frame works best for you). Credit limits can then be increased based on the customer’s payment history.

Clearing the hurdles

At YogaFit Inc., Beth Shaw says one of her firm’s biggest challenges is minimising the time between receipt of a customer order and receipt of the goods from the manufacturer or supplier.

“Not getting product from our suppliers on time is a constant challenge,” says Shaw, whose firm stocks inventory but also relies on timely shipments from suppliers, particularly on popular items that her customers buy in bulk. To work through it, Shaw not only pressures suppliers to fulfill orders faster but also provides realistic time frames (such as “allow two to four weeks for delivery”) to customers.

To guarantee that those customers are well taken care of in the interim – and on all future orders – Shaw says she impresses on her staff the importance of impeccable customer service.

“I really drill it into our staff, teaching them how to handle both satisfied and difficult customers,” says Shaw. “We also teach them how not to let people steal their time and how to address their needs and solve their problems in an efficient manner.”

Good advice to heed

Laura Benson, owner and founder of Jeanne Beatrice LLC, advises both new and growing distributors to pay attention to consumer tastes and buying shifts – both of which can quickly derail even the best laid business plans. “Keep tabs on economic changes, what people are willing to spend, and other trends that could significantly impact your business,” says Benson.

Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are – and then rounding out those attributes with either in-house or outsourced support/help—goes a long way in helping businesses get off of the ground and stay in growth mode, Benson adds.

“I don’t think you need to know all the answers at the beginning, so just trust that if you know your idea is good, it probably is,” says Benson. “For me, it was one baby step at a time, and before I knew it, I was selling baskets.”

Evan Money, president at Extreme Sports, says that even in today’s tech-oriented world – where customers can find new sources of products with the simple click of a mouse – relationships remain a strong foundational element of any distributor-customer transaction.

 

Related: Wholesale Food Sample Business Plan

“As the world gets larger, it really gets smaller and flatter. So while someone can do a deal direct with a distributor in China or India, the reality is that the customer may never hear from that source again once they’ve paid for the merchandise,” says Money, who’s heard multiple horror stories along those lines from customers over the past few years.

“Rather than focusing on being the low-price leader, put an effort into building strong relationships. That energy will be well spent over the long run.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Lessons Learnt

Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

Throughout the year, the Virgin co-founder shared what he thinks are the essential elements to success.

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If there’s one thing Richard Branson knows, it’s how to run a successful business.

Throughout last year, the Virgin founder shared what he thinks are the keys ingredients to building a successful company with each letter of the alphabet, which he slowly revealed through the 365 days.

From A for attitude to N for naivety to Z for ZZZ, check out Branson’s ABCs of success.

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Lessons Learnt

How Reflexively Apologising For Everything All The Time Undermines Your Career

How can you inspire confidence if you are constantly saying you’re sorry for doing your job?

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I’m one of those weird people who gets excited about performance reviews. I like getting feedback and understanding how I can improve. A few years ago, I sat down for my first annual review as the director of communications for the Florida secretary of state, under the governor of Florida.

I had a great relationship with my chief of staff, but I had taken on a major challenge when I accepted the job a year prior. I didn’t really know what to expect.

Youth takes charge

I was 25 at the time, and everyone on my team was in their thirties and forties. I came from Washington, D.C., and was an outsider to my southern colleagues. I was asking a lot from people who had been used to very different expectations from their supervisor.

I sat down with my chief of staff who gave me some feedback about the challenges I had tackled.

She then paused and said to me, very directly,”But you have to stop apologising. You must stop saying sorry for doing your job.”

Related: 8 Valuable And Inspirational Web Series You Should Check Out

I didn’t know what to say. My reflex was to reply sheepishly, “Umm, I’m sorry?” But instead I immediately decided to be more cognisant of how often I said I was sorry. Years later, her words have stuck with me. I have what some may consider the classic female disease of apologising. When the New York Times addressed it, five of my friends and past coworkers sent it to me.

In it, writer Sloane Crosley got to the heart of the issue:

“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologising.”

Topic of debate

I’ve talked at length with other women trying to figure out this fine balance. The Washington PostTime, and Cosmopolitan have all tackled this topic. Some say it’s OK to apologise; others criticise those who are criticising women who apologise. Clearly, I’m not alone in dealing with this issue. In fact, I’m constantly telling the people I manage that by apologising they give up a lot of their power.

Related: Want To Feel Empowered? Check Out These 17 Quotes From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t apologise for doing your job.

If you’re following up with a coworker about something they said they’d get to you earlier, don’t say, “Sorry to bug you!” If you want to share your thoughts in a meeting, don’t start off by saying, “Sorry, I just want to add…” If you’re doing your job, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for.

That’s what I think. And I’m not even sorry about it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

10 Quotes On Following Your Dreams, Having Passion And Showing Hard Work From Tech Guru Michael Dell

If you’re in need of a little motivation, check out these quotes from Dell’s CEO, founder and chairman.

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There’s much to learn from one of the computer industry’s longest tenured CEOs and founders, Michael Dell. As an integral part of the computer revolution in the 1980s, Dell launched Dell Computer Corporation from his dorm room at the University of Texas. And it didn’t take Dell long before he’d launched one of the most successful computer companies. Indeed, by 1992 Dell was the youngest CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Dell’s success had been long foreshadowed. When he was 15, Dell showed great interest in technology, purchasing an early version of an Apple computer, only so he could take it apart and see how it was built. And once he got to college, Dell noticed a gap in the market for computers: There were no companies that were selling directly to consumers. So, he decided to cut out the middleman and began building and selling computers directly to his classmates. Before long, he dropped out of school officially to pursue Dell.

Fast forward to today. Dell is not only a tech genius and businessman, but a bestselling author, investor and philanthropist, with a networth of $24.7 billion. He continues his role as the CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies, making him one of the longest tenured CEOs in the computer industry.

So if you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration, take it from Dell.

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